Release date: June 2018
Review, short version: Thumbs up for the story; thumbs down for the perpetrators.
Review, long version:
In the documentary Three Identical Strangers we meet her at her apartment – petite, silver haired, and gracious, everyone’s dream grandma or, at 91, great grandma – offering coffee before conversation.
She obviously enjoys walking her visitors through her photo gallery of “buddies,” as she calls them – pictures of herself with “Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Robert Redford, Al Gore, Errol Flynn, Picasso.”
She is Natasha Josefowitz, Ph.D., an internationally recognized poet and lecturer, author of 17 books, inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015 for her dedication to empowering women.
Unfortunately, she apparently wasn’t interested in empowering a small group of women back in the 1960s and 1970s, when she was part of a secret scientific study that deliberately separated multiple-birth children who’d been put up for adoption by the Louise Wise Services agency.
That group was up to a dozen unmarried birth mothers who didn’t know that their twins – and in one case – triplets – had been separated. The adoptive mothers (and fathers) didn’t know, either.
Josefowitz is adamant about distancing herself from the study, conducted by psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Peter Neubauer. She was a “peripheral person,” she insists. She was “not part of the team.” “I was in the office,” she shrugs.
She makes excuses for Neubauer’s years-long plan of studying the nature vs. nurture debate, portrays it as benign, calls it “an exciting time.” Calls him “Sexy. Nice looking. Interesting.”
I call Josefowitz a damn liar, a hypocrite, and a collaborator in what one of the adoptees angrily described as, “This is like Nazi shit. They studied us like lab rats!”
That adoptee is Bobby Shafran, and he was one of not the twins, but one of the triplets, separated shortly after they were born in 1961 and adopted by three different families.
Three Identical Strangers is the story of how Bobby and his brothers, Eddy Galland and David Kellman, found each other 19 years later, after growing up within 100 miles of each other in New York.
The brothers bonded instantly, became inseparable, and became the focus of massive media attention, the 1980 version of “viral” – newspapers, national magazines and network television, the triplets’ every outfit, word and gesture (many of which were often identical) admired and exclaimed over.
It was a fairy tale, and no one – including the brothers – spent much time wondering why they’d been separated 19 years earlier.
No one except their angry adoptive parents.
The six parents asked for a meeting with representatives from Louise Wise Services, “the pre-eminent adoption agency on the East Coast, for Jewish babies in particular.” They were lied to, told that no adoptive family wanted multiple children. The parents went home, unsatisfied and still angry.
But Bobby, Eddy and David were having the time of their lives. They opened a restaurant in New York, named – of course – Triplets, in 1988, described as “wildly successful.” They married and started families.
They also met their birth mother but, sadly, didn’t connect. It was a “prom night knock-up type of thing,” says David. But “it was OK.”
There’s much more to Three Identical Strangers including reporter Lawrence Wright’s investigation into the triplets’ story, where he learned a lot about the Louise Wise agency’s cooperation with Neubauer. But Wright ran into a stone wall: Neubauer’s nature vs. nurture study was never published, and on his death in 2008, Neubauer’s papers were placed at Yale University, sealed in a vault until 2065.
What conceivable reason could there have been for that, other than to conceal the secrecy – and the separations?
By 2065 all those twins – and the Three Identical Strangers – would be dead, and couldn’t cause trouble.
In a June 2018 interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune Josefowitz continued to insist she wasn’t a part of Neubauer’s study. She was “unhappy” that the documentary suggests a conspiracy between Neubauer and the adoption agency. She was “saddened” that information is locked away.
Perhaps Josefowitz could ask for assistance from some of her highly placed “buddies” in getting that information unsealed.
Before she, too, is dead.